Football or fußball or soccer is a game that’s always lingered in a distant corner of my life with really being anything that I’ve paid much attention to.
In fact, my knowledge of football can be summed up thusly:
- Manchester United.
- David Beckham.
- “Fever Pitch” by Nick Hornby.
- The Hillsborough tragedy.
- That time in the early ’80s when the All Whites did quite well.
- Gary Lineker.
- Sven Goran Erikson.
- Ulrika Jonsson. (That’s enough – Ed)
I’ve had a vague New Year’s resolution this year to watch more sport. So far all this has meant was seeing a cricket game back in April, but when one of my workmates announced she was organising a group outing to a Wellington Phoenix game, I jumped at the chance to get more sport in my life.
So I showed up to Westpac Stadium with the group and we quickly moved from our allocated seats over to aisle 22, for this is where the rowdy Yellow Fever supporters sat. This was, I was told, where all the fun happens.
I soon learned that football is reasonably easy game to follow: you have the ball and you need to get it in your goal and also stop the other team getting the ball in their goal.
It’s also quite hard to score a goal, and I like this. Not that I know anything about rugby, but it seems that in that game, you can score points by hurling the ball over pretty much anything. But because it’s harder in football, when a goal is scored it’s just that much sweeter.
And football is about crowd chants; proper chants, not just Exponents lyrics.
There’s the “Wellington is wonderful” chant (“We’ve got the wind, the rain and the Phoenix”) to buoy the spirits of the team, and then things like the mysterious “She fell over! She fell over!” chant to diss the South Australian visitors.
Actually, on the subject of Wellington being wonderful, it really is great that not only does Wellington have a professional football team, but the stadium it plays at is conveniently in the city, right next to the train station.
The big highlight of the game was The Goal. Yes, there was only one (the final score – one-all) but it was just a brilliant moment. Everyone got up and yelled and cheered and waved their scarves in the air. I also waved my newly purchased Phoenix scarf, and discovered that my voice goes all squeaky when I yell.
But in between the goal and the near-misses, I was surprised at how graceful football is. The way the ball sometimes flows between the players, bouncing from head to head, shooting from leg to leg. Oh right, that is why they call it the beautiful game.
I left the stadium, wandering off into the cold spring night, no longer a stranger to the appeal of football, and indeed feeling seduced by its charms.